Why Schutz Is FN’s Brand of the Year Winner

Schutz Juliana Sandal
Schutz Juliana cage sandal.
Courtesy of brand.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Footwear News will host its 2016 Achievement Awards in New York, honoring the best and brightest in the industry, including Brand of the Year winner Schutz. Read on to learn more about Alexandre Birman and Schutz’s accomplishments.

When Birman visited his Schutz store on New York’s Madison Avenue one Sunday this month, his team delivered some great news: The location had its best weekend yet.

It’s been more than two decades since the footwear mogul founded the fast-fashion brand, and he’s banking on it to become a major growth-driver for Arezzo & Co., his Brazil-based family business.

Alexandre Birman Alexandre Birman with wife, Johanna Stein Birman. Victor Affaro.

As he forges ahead with that mission, Birman’s deep experience and vast knowledge of the shoe business will undoubtedly give him an edge. “I don’t know my life without shoes,” the designer told FN, joking that his baby cradle was a shoebox. “Making shoes for me is like breathing and eating. It’s part of my survival.”

By age 12, Birman had created his first shoe by hand, and by 18, his career in the footwear industry was taking off with the conception of Schutz. In 2007, Birman’s father, Anderson, invited his son to merge the brand with Arezzo, the empire launched by the elder Birman in 1972. Alexandre took the CEO reins in 2011 and has been moving quickly to increase the brand’s presence.

Domestically in Brazil, Schutz operates 78 stores and is considered high end at around $100. In the U.S., the brand is priced higher, above many of its fast-fashion competitors, at $95 to $395.

Energized by early stateside successes, Birman is now making a bigger push in both retail and wholesale. The first U.S. store launched in 2012 on Madison Avenue; the brand unveiled its second Schutz location, in Beverly Hills, Calif., in April.

The Schutz U.S. flagship in New York. The Schutz U.S. flagship in New York.

“Our retail strategy so far is based on flagships and e-commerce businesses,” Birman said. “Those flagships motivate us to [create] an expansion plan in the U.S.”

In addition, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue have helped thrust the brand into the spotlight in the department-store sector.

Betty Wang, VP and DMM at Saks, said the retailer identified an opportunity for contemporary fast fashion, and Schutz was hitting the key trends. “The brand’s styles are feminine, sexy and trendy — all of which appeal to our Saks customer,” said Wang. “We are obsessed with the ‘global traveler’ spirit of the Schutz spring ’17 collection.”

Schutz Sandals Schutz sandal. Courtesy of brand.

For spring, Saks also plans to exclusively launch the brand’s block-heel cage sandal, which Wang anticipates will be a new must-have style.

As it works to ramp up retail partnerships, Schutz has a major advantage, thanks to a constant flow of new, high-quality product. A whopping 4,000 to 5,000 silhouettes are developed per year, according to Birman. “We have our own factory, and that makes a big difference. We can offer more control with what we can do, and our speed to market is much faster.”

For Birman, celebrity backing has been another crucial part of building the brand. Kate Middleton has been spotted in the brand’s Dollie sandals; Alessandra Ambrosio, a longtime friend of the label, continues to show her support.

Kate Middleton Schutz Sandals Kate Middleton arrives at the Natural History Museum wearing a Barbara Casarola dress and Schutz sandals. REX Shutterstock.

Popular blogger Rocky Barnes has also become a fan of Schutz. “What got me hooked was the lace-up gladiators,” said Barnes, adding that she also appreciates the price points and trend direction. “The aesthetic is great, and they hit the mark with everything.”